William Easter Distinguished Service Award 2022
After a stellar high school performance, William Easter began his college education at The George Washington University in 1950. With the Korean War raging, he enlisted in the United States Air Force in July, 1951. After basic training he was assigned to radio operator school. As a part of this curriculum he received instruction in basic electronics, which led to a decision to study electrical engineering after his active service. He graduated with a B. S. degree in Electrical Engineering with high honors from North Carolina State College (University) in 1959. At this point he was awarded an NDEA fellowship for Ph.D. study in science of materials at Carnegie Institute of Technology (Carnegie Mellon University).
At Carnegie Tech, he completed the coursework and qualifying exams to begin research in what we now know as solid-state materials and devices. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on one’s perspective) his efforts did not culminate with the Ph.D., and he left CIT with a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering.
In 1963, through the encouragement of Robert Lade, a colleague at CIT who had been recruited to begin a solid-state research program at N.C. State , he joined the Electrical Engineering faculty as an instructor. During the first year, he assisted Dr. Lade in designing the first fabrication laboratory and teaching the first graduate course in the solid-state curriculum. Afterward, he was assigned to teaching the senior courses in electronics and communications, which at that point still concentrated on vacuum-tube technology. In the next year, he introduced transistor technology and began to emphasize design in the laboratory experiments rather than use the analytic approach common at the time.
After having served for several years on the Advisory Committee for the Engineering Operations Program, a curriculum combining basic engineering principles with business fundamentals, Easter was named director of the program in July, 1970. For the next ten years, he strengthened the E.O. curriculum and promoted the value of its graduates to industry recruiters, while continuing to teach in the in electrical courses.
In 1980, with a new department head in Electrical Engineering, he moved back into the department as associate head. In this position he was responsible for the undergraduate program, managing the teaching schedule for all E.E. courses, assigning the graduate teaching assistants their duties, moving the department to a centralized advising system and representing the department on the Engineering College and University Scholarship and Course and Curriculum Committees. He was also elected to represent the Engineering College on the University Faculty Senate, serving one year as secretary. During this phase of his career, he also served for 12 years on the N.C. State Board of Examiners of Electrical Contractors, having been appointed by Governors James Martin and James Hunt. For eight of these years he was elected by the Board as chairman.
During his years as associate department head, he continued to push for a greater design emphases in the undergraduate curriculum, to culminate in a required senior design project. After a proposal was made to add computer engineering as a second curriculum, he supported the effort against resistance from the more conservative faculty members and argued for its approval in the College and University Course and Curriculum Committees.
In 1991, Easter resigned from his administrative position and returned to full-time teaching in the electronics circuits course he had started with. In order to give his students as near an industry experience as possible in the academic environment, he had the students participate in a semester-long design project for the laboratory portion of the course. A fitting end to his thirty-one years on the Electrical and Computer Engineering Faculty.